Anniversary of Baby Doe’s Death

April 15, 2013

During the spring of 1982, an innocent baby was left to suffer and die in a Bloomington, Indiana hospital. Baby Doe, as he is known, was born with two conditions, Down syndrome and tracheoesophageal fistula, a birth defect in the throat that makes eating food orally impossible. A surgery could have been undertaken to fix the tracheoesophageal fistula. However, Baby Doe’s obstetrician advised his parents that instead of surgery they should simply do nothing, resulting in their son dying of dehydration or starvation after a few days. The obstetrician declared that his life was not worth living and should be allowed to die. Consequently, Baby Doe died after suffering for six days.  As told to the Chicago Tribune,

“I believe there are things that are worse than having [such] a child die. And one of them is that it might live.” – Dr. Walter Owens, obstetrician

Judge John Baker

Judge John Baker

After failed attempts of more than 10 couples to adopt the baby, the parents tragically allowed their helpless son to die. This sad event led the Bloomington hospital to take the baby’s case before a judge. The case was appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court resulting in the decision to let Baby Doe die. One of the judges involved in the legal process, Judge John G. Baker of the Monroe County Circuit Court, stated,

“The parents have the right to choose a medically recommended course of treatment for their child.” – Judge Baker

Judge Baker is currently on the bench in Indiana. This horrible event led the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold any federal funding from hospitals that withhold medical care in order to allow disabled infants to die.

The anniversary of Baby Doe’s death is April 15. After 31 years, his death should not be forgotten and must serve as a reminder that innocent life must be protected. All life is precious and Hoosiers need to stay informed of judicial actions that affect life. Pro-life advocates must remain vigilant to insure a death sentence like the one Baby Doe received, is never given to another child.

Jared Noblitt
Allen County Right to Life intern

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